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Opinion: In 2022 Guildford, Food Banks Are Needed As Much As Ever

Published on: 23 May, 2022
Updated on: 27 May, 2022

By Zoe Franklin

Prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Guildford

Imagine going to the supermarket to get food for your family, seeing the price increases and realising you can no longer make ends meet.

This is the situation faced by thousands, if not millions, across the country and hundreds right here in Guildford.

I wanted to see the situation for myself, so as part of work I am doing alongside Guildford Lib Dem colleagues looking into the local impact of the cost of living crisis on Tuesday (May 17) I visited the Salvation Army Food Hub.

The hub is one of two food banks operating in Guildford town (plus their satellites across the borough), along with numerous other projects that support local families and individuals struggling to put food on their tables.

The Guildford Salvation Army food bank in 2020.

Before touring the hub I sat down with Major Julia Adcock and Sergeant Wayne Adcock who run the project in the Salvation Army church that hosts it to talk about how it works, and the kind of people accessing it. It was an upsetting discussion.

They shared with me how demand for food parcels has ballooned since 2019 and highlighted that 312 food parcels were distributed in March 2022 (even before the energy cap price rise) compared to 100 in March 2020.

This peak for the year so far coincided with the school Easter holidays, a trend that they are seeing regularly now as families struggle to provide all the food needed when schools are closed. (I include a copy of the graph they shared with me alongside this article.)

Zoe Franklin, parliamentary Lib Dem candidate

I asked them whether all the families seeking help are on benefits and they explained that this wasn’t the case, that many of the families are in work but on low incomes and rising energy, food and fuel prices, the removal of the pandemic Universal Credit uplift, and the National Insurance increase, plus other things, were leaving these families unable to cope financially.

They shared as well how they now have people come to them asking for help with fuel bills, not just for food, and that they expect this to only increase as the cost of living crisis continues.

As I was shown around the food hub, my mood was lifted as I saw the stocks of donations from local people and food shops – it is heartening how our community continues to come together to help those struggling.

But no matter how good it is that people are being supported, it is out of place to celebrate the fact that it is necessary in 2022 for so many food banks and other support like this to exist – across the country there are thought to be over two thousand.

Food banks have been operating in Guildford for some years. This picture of volunteers at the North Guildford Food Bank was taken in 2013. There are now thought to be over 2,000.

While Guildford is an affluent area, there are people here struggling to manage. It has been so for a long time and is one of the things that originally persuaded me to get involved in politics. However, the passage of time has failed to bring improvements, instead things have got worse, as shown by the rising need for foodbanks.

Looking ahead, this increase will continue for all the reasons explained to me in my visit; but it doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to ease the cost of living crisis – through a windfall tax on energy company profits or an emergency short-term cut to VAT – but so far has failed to do so, something that frustrates and upsets me, along with many other similarly minded, caring people.

it is out of place to celebrate the fact that it is necessary in 2022 for so many food banks… to exist…”

To close, I want to encourage anyone reading this and who feels they are able, to look at supporting the Salvation Army Food Hub, North Guildford Foodbank or the other organisations providing help and support.

That support could be a financial donation, a parcel of food donations or volunteering your time. Every offer of support is gratefully received and will make a real difference to the lives of those in our communities who are struggling.

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